|Moet & Chandon|
In its previous life, Number 8 was one of the first fine dining restaurants these two bears had ever experienced. That was obviously many years ago, and although we ventured back a second time, it just wasn’t tempting enough for us to return a third….until now.
Our friend and pastry chef extraordinaire Alex (who we like to call Falcon, which is a whole other story in and of itself) shifted from his lovely little desert bar at Mr. Hive Kitchen & Bar to the reincarnated No. 8 by John Lawson (update: the restaurant is now reverted back to just being called No. 8 – 31/03/2016) several months ago. He told us it would be closed for renovations for a short period, so we eagerly awaited his signal for the relaunch…
I know, I know, since we had a friend planted in the kitchen (who had already told us about the Exec Chef’s accolades) there really was no need to research anymore about John Lawson. But to fill in the time between relaunch and our dinner date, we poked around and what we found made us more excited than ever! Happy dances ensued when we realized we were going to eat food created by a man whose resume included: 2-Michelin starred Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, Aurora, 3-Michelin starred Daniel Boulud’s ‘Daniel’, Maze, and Mr. Hive Kitchen & Bar. That and Alex (who once graced the kitchens of Mercers, Maze and Mr. Hive – just to name a few) was going to be preparing deserts! Conclusion: this is going to be radness.
|Potato, Rosemary & Honey Sourdough with Seaweed Butter.|
To set the stage for our evening, let me fill you in on just a little more back story. A few months ago, when Alex said he was going to No. 8, we told him that we’d like to go there again for our 14 year anniversary in November. He promptly replied:
Tell me the date & time and I’ll book it in for you.
Okay, 7.00pm Saturday 23 November.
FYI – that’s not actually our anniversary for those who are tapping the date into your phone, we just wanted to go on the weekend instead of a week night…it’s a couple days later.
|Flowerdale Farm Spring Salad|
So, the appointed date and time arrived and we’re through the smooth glass doors mere minutes before 7.00pm. The restaurant was familiar in layout, but it felt more modern, clean, and slick than before. Shawn announced his name to the lovely front Hostess, whose eyebrows raised as she said Oh, you’re friends of Chef Alex and we responded (all proud and stuff) Yeah, we are!
She took our jackets and handed us over to the very sharp and witty Owen, our Host, who glided through the dining room to show us to our table. I didn’t see Alex as was scooted past the kitchen, but Shawn nudged me as we sat down, I got a peek of Alex in the kitchen, he looks really busy! Owen placed our coat-check tag on the table and like a professional tag-team he handed us over to meet our Server David, who was incredibly attentive, knowledgeable in food and wine, and made us laugh quite a lot throughout the entire evening!
|Black & Blue Tuna|
As we were getting comfy, to our surprise Owen returned with two glasses of sparking Moet & Chandon, Happy Anniversary he said to us as he placed the slim glasses down. Awww, so sweet of Alex to tell the others, we thought. Then like clockwork, as Owen left, David returned with a little board of bread and sweetly acknowledged our anniversary as well. Jeez, we feel so special!
Now, let’s not shoot past the bread. Let’s talk about the bread. Potato, Rosemary and Honey Sourdough bread with Seaweed Butter. Oh goodness. Could bread and butter really be that good? Oh yes, yes it can. Do not deny the bread and butter, get the bread and butter, eat the bread and butter. This is boding well for the rest of the evening! we thought to ourselves. As we nibbled and sipped our Moet, we perused the menu. We then ordered a glass of Pinot Gris each, plus our starters and mains. We even got a surprise visit from Chef Alex at our table while we sat back to enjoy the lovely revamped atmosphere, which was still intimate and cozy despite it being completely packed with patrons. This is already such a great night and all we’ve had is bread, butter and wine!
|Jicama Ravioli Salad|
While chatting away, an adorable server appears and puts down the Executive Chef’s creative Flowerdale Farm Spring Salad, with wheat berries (great texture!), baby carrots and pea shoots. It was delicate in flavour and full of textural fun – great way to start the meal. Beautifully presented.
After a short break, a second round of starters arrived (with matching wines, of which I think was a not-so-sweet Reisling). Shawn had the Executive Chef’s specialty: Portland Black and Blue Tuna with black garlic, yuzu jam and aged soy – which looked like a work of art on the plate. Apparently the garlic goes through some incredible process to have its colour and flavour; however, Shawn was so consumed with the absolutely, perfectly, brilliantly cooked tuna (crisped impeccably on one side – the black; while raw on the other side – the blue) I’m not sure he noticed the black cloves of garlic! Big thumbs up for this dish, if you’re into tuna, this is one to never, ever miss out on!
|Barwon River Lamb Shoulder|
I had another salad, but it wasn’t really a salad-salad if you know what I mean. The Jicama Ravioli Salad had little dollops of avocado, chilli and pistachio throughout – again delicate with great texture. The Jicama was stuffed into the ravioli pieces and provided a sharp crunch, which was just great for someone like me… I’m a crunchy kind of gal.
If we had gotten up and left at this point, we would’ve been thoroughly impressed with the food, wine and service. But that wasn’t going to happen…so onto Round 3!
New matching wines arrived – forgive me for not knowing the names, there are some things you just can’t pay attention to when so much good stuff is happening around you – but I believe it was a red called a Syrah (which David said was like a Shiraz but done in a traditional style) and the Barwon River Lamb Shoulder was slid underneath Shawn’s nose. Incredibly tender meat, served with the complementary flavours of bush spiced quinoa and sheep’s yoghurt – Shawn was all smiles as he enjoyed this main slowly.
|Cauliflower Almond Cheese Gratin|
Next up, the Chocolate & Cherry Fondant with goat’s milk ice cream. Loved it! The fondant’s indulgent smooth centre just oozed out once we dove into it. The black cherries gave it an awesome opposing bite against the rich sweetness of the chocolate. Add to that the creamy ice cream, it was another home-run for Alex! Plus, who wouldn’t love a big platter with chocolate writing saying Happy Anniversary!? 🙂
Onto the last desert (by this time I was thinking, I shouldn’t have driven here!), which was a Honey Yoghurt Mouse with lychees, mango and grapefruit. I must admit, I had to nearly arm wrestle Shawn off this one, but he was lucky. Not only was I loaded with more alcohol than normal (making me much weaker for a food battle), but I was so full by this point that after a few bites of my own, I acquiesced and let him have the lion’s share of the last desert. Even though its fresh flavours of sweet and sour were very hard to give up…
|Chocolate & Cherry Fondant – the anniversary edition!|
Then, as if to torture us with more amazing food, Owen delivers little Coconut Crusted White Chocolate balls filled with, what we think was, a raspberry-ish sauce/jam. Unable to resist the temptation, we munch away. I immediately gave my second one to Shawn, as the filling was a bit too tart and strong for me, but he loved them!
|Coconut Crusted White Chocolate ball thingies 🙂|
We’re still flabbergasted (and honored) to have received so much attention from everyone at No. 8 by John Lawson, simply because we managed to stick it out for 14 years! Not to mention the continued great company from both Owen and David throughout the entire evening. And of course, the beautifully cooked and exceptionally executed food by John Lawson and our friend Alex.
If you haven’t gone…get to it!PS. For those concerned for my own and other’s welfare, I did responsibly drink – I had lots of water in between wines and was fully legal to drive home when it was time to leave ;P
Flavour: ★★★★★ ✔
Service: ★★★★★ ✔
Value: ★★★★★ ✔
Atmosphere: ★★★★★ ✔